Website>> Water utility • The US
According to The Los Angeles Times, a Californian water utility paid nearly US $200,000 for glowing coverage on a website that boosted its profile on Google.
The newspaper reports that officials from the Central Basin Municipal Water District used public funds to hire a consulting firm affiliated with a professional-looking website, News Hawks Review, to produce and post promotional stories “written in the image of real news”. The utility used the stories to boost its ranking on Google, which classified News Hawks Review as a news site.
Google removed the site from its search index following publication of the news, saying it violated its guidelines. The website had published over 30 glowing stories about the utility in the past year. Central Basin spokesperson told The Los Angeles Times the campaign had helped bring more web traffic to the utility’s website. Terry Francke of non-profit Californians Aware told the newspaper that the utility engaged in a breach of the public trust.
The utility has a history of bad press coverage, stemming from investigations into allegedly misused travel expenses and corruption.
We are a voice to you; you have been a support to us. Together we build journalism that is independent, credible and fearless. You can further help us by making a donation. This will mean a lot for our ability to bring you news, perspectives and analysis from the ground so that we can make change together.
Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.